ATHENS — This Augusta National thing could be getting “old hat” for Jenny Bae, if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s, you know, Augusta National.
Bae, a Georgia senior, has qualified for the Augusta National Women’s Amateur for the second year in a row. She and future Bulldog Savannah De Bock are in the elite field that features 72 of the world’s premier amateur players competing for the title of world’s best.
“It’s definitely a huge honor to be invited,” Bae said this week. “I get to play against a lot of the best amateur players in the world within every one of our tournaments, but for the players I’ve never met – I’m sure they’re really good seeing that they also received invitations – I can’t wait.”
As always, the tournament will begin with 36 holes of stroke play at Champions Retreat Golf Club on Wednesday and Thursday. The field will be cut to the top 30 scorers for Saturday’s match-play rounds at famed Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters – which starts next week.
Bae and De Bock were each selected based on their world amateur ranking, which is No. 29 and No. 40, respectively. Among collegiate golfers, Bae is listed at No. 2 by Golfstat and No. 5 by Golfweek.
This will be the first ANWA experience for De Bock, who is a Georgia signee from Ecaussinnes-d’enghien, Belgium.
“I’m really excited about it,” De Bock said. “I just want it to get here.”
De Bock, who will join the Bulldogs next fall, is paired with Bae for the first two rounds.
Meanwhile, coach Josh Brewer is caddying for Bae for the second straight year and third time overall. The Bulldogs’ 10th-year coach also caddied for Bae at the 2021 U.S. Women’s Amateur.
UGA has had a major presence in the ANWA since its inception four years ago. Five individuals have qualified a total of seven times. That ledger includes Caterina Don in 2019 and 2021, Isabella Holpfer in 2021, Candice Mahé in 2021, Bae in 2022 and 2023, and De Bock in 2023.
Bae is in the midst of one of the most statistically dominant seasons in Georgia history. Her stroke average of 70.42 is 0.62 per round better than the Bulldogs’ season record of 71.04 by Jillian Hollis in 2018. Bae has recorded 20 par-or-better scores in 26 rounds this season and is a combined 32 under on the year. She is only two par-or-better loops away from the school record shared by Marta Silva Zamora in 2011 and Bailey Tardy in 2016.
This season, Bae has posted seven top-five finishes in nine tournaments, including shooting a school-record 16 under en route to winning the Illini Invitational last fall.
A year ago, Bae shot 76-77—153 to tie for 43rd at the ANWA but did not make it into the final.
“It’s the second time (at ANWA), so for me it’s kind of a progress check for me to the point where I can say, ‘OK, I’m doing good to the point that I got another invitation,’” Bae said. “It gives me another chance to show off and see what I can do, so it’s exciting. Last year I learned that I would have to play the course a little more conservatively and just focus on my targets out there instead of hitting it really aggressively at the pin.”
De Bock already has posted two runner-up finishes in 2023, finishing second at the Junior Orange Bowl International and the Spanish International Ladies’ Amateur Championship. A year ago, she captured three victories, headlined by medalist honors at the European Ladies Amateur Championship. De Bock also won the Belgian International Amateur and Royal Belgian Golf Federation’s King’s Prize tournament and finished fifth at the World Junior Girls Championship in 2022.
Since 2020, De Bock has recorded six wins and 25 top-10 finishes in 50 WAGR events. She helped Europe win the 2021 Junior Solheim Cup and represented Belgium at the 2022 World Amateur Team Championships.
De Bock said her primary goals are to limit 3-putts and shoot close to par.
“It’s really nice because I’m here and know I’m going to be a Bulldog next year,” De Bock said. “I’m so excited because everyone are Bulldog fans here. There are so many people who are like ‘Go Dawgs’ already, and it makes me proud to be a future part of UGA.”
New this year is the first two rounds will be broadcast live on the Golf Channel (1:30-3:30 p.m. ET). NBC Sports will produce a three-hour broadcast (noon-3 p.m. ET) of round coverage. Also, the Golf Channel’s “Live From the Masters” show will begin Friday and include coverage of the ANWA as well as the Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals.
Dawg Tags: The AJC presents a daily look at the one thing you need to know about Georgia athletics today.